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A Year In Court For City Of Pensacola


At least four high-profile lawsuits have been filed against either the city or Mayor Ashton Hayward in the past year or so.

Former City Councilwoman Maren DeWeese, who was briefly a candidate for mayor, sued Hayward over a budget issue. The case was dismissed by Circuit Judge Terry Terrell last August.

In January, Seville Harbour Incorporated and its tenants Fish House Restaurant and Atlas Oyster Bar filed suit over its lease of city-owned Pitt’s Slip.

Businessman Robert de Varona filed after city officials told him in April he had only a few hours to remove his belongings from Pensacola International Airport and make way for a new concessionaire. A settlement was reached soon afterward.

And former City Administrator Bill Reynolds filed suit in mid-May. He was terminated last July after the State Attorney’s Office cited him for noncriminal violations of Florida's public records law.

Rick Outzen the Publisher of the Pensacola Independent News, says the Reynolds case is mostly “an employment issue.”

“I think the reason that one’s coming up is that he didn’t get the job as Escambia County Administrator,” said Outzen. “Had he gotten that job, he probably wouldn’t have done this suit.”

Outzen says there have been high-profile lawsuits against the city before this latest spate of litigation. In 2009, for instance, local developers filed claiming favoritism in the award of the Hyatt Hotel construction project at the airport. He adds that a couple of the recent cases appear to boil down to just simple miscommunication before the lawsuits were filed.

“That the parties that were involved feel they did not get the opportunity to really negotiate with the city,” Outzen said. “

Bruce Childers, a civil litigation attorney who is not involved in any of the aforementioned lawsuits, says civil cases generally take longer to adjudicate because they’re near the He added that many are settled out-of-court, and that almost all will go to court-ordered mediation.

“In a lot of cases, I would say 50% and maybe even more, the case is settled in mediation,” said Childers. “The courts encourage people to settle them out of court, because when you go to court….you’re litigating towards an uncertain future.”

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the Fish House says “things are moving slowly” with their lawsuit. A mediation day had been set, but last month’s floods forced a postponement. A new date has not been announced.

Tamara Fountain, the City of Pensacola’s Press Secretary, says she cannot comment on any of the litigation, active or resolved.